January 21st, 2012
09:53 PM ET

Passing significant test, Gingrich wins more S.C. evangelicals than rivals

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com

(CNN) - If there were any doubts that Newt Gingrich, a thrice-married convert to Catholicism, could connect with the evangelical voters who make up the Republican Party base, Saturday’s South Carolina primary put them to rest, with the former House Speaker winning twice as many evangelical votes as anyone else in the race.

Evangelical Christians made up two-thirds of the South Carolina electorate on Saturday, and Gingrich took 44% of their votes, according to CNN’s exit poll.

Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, who rode evangelical support to victory in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses earlier this month, each got 21% of the evangelical vote in South Carolina.

Gingrich got roughly the same share of the South Carolina evangelical vote as Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist preacher, did four years ago.

The former House speaker campaigned vigorously among evangelicals in the Palmetto State, talking about “values” issues and speaking to and holding conference calls with hundreds of evangelical pastors.

“Whatever his personal values may be, he certainly talked effectively and cogently to the kinds of issues that evangelicals care about,” said John Green, an expert in religion and politics at the University of Akron.

“Gingrich had a very intensive campaign mentioning social issues, less as policy matter than as test of the broader ideology of candidates,” Green said.

An accusation last week from Gingrich’s second wife that he asked for an “open marriage” raised questions about how much so-called “values voters” would support him.

“To a degree, it will give [evangelical voters] pause, but there’s a much more insatiable appetite to defeat President Obama,” said David Brody, chief political correspondent at CBN News at the Christian Broadcasting Network.

“Gingrich has never claimed to be a patron saint,” Brody said. “People have known for years about Gingrich’s marriage issues. In a way, his well-known history of troubled marriage works for him here.”

Last weekend, a group of conservative Christian leaders – evangelicals, mostly – reached consensus around supporting Santorum, but many experts said the development came to late to seriously influence the race.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Politics

soundoff (671 Responses)
  1. Tam

    Thank God there are still the rest of the country electors who will be deciding the final result. Evangelicals supporting Newt - what part of this does not make sense? "Christians" - upstanding human beings like Newt? You want him representing us and leading the country? Oh, yeah, like that French guy at the hotel in NY, and all his previous "adventures." What has happened to this country?

    January 21, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
    • One Evangelical

      Good point Tam but remember 66% of us didn't vote for Newt.

      January 21, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
  2. Hasai

    South Carolina: The state that put "Dubyuh" over the top in 2000, and I will *never* forgive them for that.

    Seems their only criteria is whoever can thump a Bible the hardest.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
  3. fsmgroupie

    Newt doesn't believe in any god crap. He's a master at conning the gullable.Those S.C. evangelicals just got hosed and Newt is laughing his a$% off.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  4. Russ

    Newt knows how to throw out the red meat to the rabid conservatives. He played them like a master musician. Only problem is, if he were elected, none of what he threw out would ever be passed.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  5. tony

    It's only about abortion for these pious types. "Wape" or multiple wives is the best way to have lots of chjldren and we wouldn't want "wapists" or seriial monogamists to be thwarted would we?

    January 21, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • Antichrist

      I take credit for that too... its fun.. less abortions = more people to put in jail

      January 21, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
  6. ItSOnLyME

    Evangelical – or to put it another way, hypocritical. This is the party of "family values"? Are you kidding me? These people claim some kind of perverse moral high ground? Seriously? Gimme a break.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
  7. The Left Wing

    Red Meat vs. Christian values. So much for Christian values.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • Homer10

      The only problem with Christian values is that the Christians keep breaking them. There the worst offenders. I guess that's why they need so much God. They have a lot on their minds.

      January 21, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  8. COlady

    Just proves what a bunch of worthless hypocrites they are!! That's o.k. Let's see Newt win the nomination, because he's completely UNELECTABLE. You bunch of fanatic evangelicals may "like" him, but the rest of mainstream America wants nothing to do with him. And I have news for you folks, you are NOT a majority.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
  9. Craig

    Evangelicals are hypocritical by nature. Gingrich fits right in with them. That's why he got so many of their votes. If Evangelicals weren't hypocrites, Gingrich would have finished last. The man, and I use that term lightly, flaunts the fact that he broke the 7th Comandment. But, I guess that one isn't important.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • Antichrist

      Jesus said you would know a tree by their fruits.. A good family man like Mitt, who does not ascribe to the letter of perfect theology is evil to follow compared to the perpetual evil and self interest that Newt exemplifies.

      follow me

      January 21, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • Palin2112

      I see your point and I could agree. But the fact remains that there are many, many people who go to church on Sunday and claim to beChristian, but they really aren't. (like Tim McVeigh)
      No true follower of Jesus could have voted for a buffoon like Newt.

      The wanna bees, hypocrites and charlatans? You betcha.

      January 21, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
  10. michael

    just a bunch of ignorant red necks. enjoy it because obama will be re-elected

    January 21, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • Homer10

      At least Obama won't have to work very hard to keep his job. However, come on Barak, tell Holder to do his job, and kick the keasters of the bankers that caused this depression. Start putting some slimy white collar criminals in jail.

      January 21, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • Sorting some things out

      Don't just assume Obama's reelection. The $$$ funded rightwingers will come up with some strategy or other to avoid that.
      Whether it's Romney or Newt (funny how one is at least man enough to be called by his last name, and the other...), it wll be a bitter fight. It won't be over (and Won) until it's really done.
      Let's keep at them, let's keep the pressure on the right wing fake patriots.

      January 22, 2012 at 8:29 am |
  11. anticrhist

    Just wait until I show up! I will have these born again' zealots and christian zionist in 3 seconds bowing to me. I will even let them kill people from other nations in my name.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • Antichrist

      I will even convince them that it is done in righteousness and for peace, and call it "foreign policy" and "national security" and convince them "they are chosen and its their destiny"..

      It does not matter that Christ said a sword would not bring in his kingdom or that his kingdom was not an earthly one..

      simplicity is the easiest deception.. and group think works well too..

      January 21, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
  12. allanhowls

    Let's all remember...South Carolina went to Bush due to Karl Rove's spreading of rumors that McCain had an illegitimate black baby.

    We know what really matters to South Carolina. Just get rid of the dark people. This is Strom Thurmond's state, after all.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
  13. michael

    what the f kind of a name is newt for a grown man? ah yes i forgot he is nothing like a grown man he is a small boy in a mans body.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • Mirosal

      It's the PERFECT name ... just a slimy, bottom feednig, pudgy salamander

      January 22, 2012 at 8:36 am |
  14. George

    Real disappointed in the people of South Carolina.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • COlady

      You're surprised?!

      January 21, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
  15. Fed Up with Politics

    Awesome! Another reason not to vote for him because Evangelicals always have to have it their way and act like spoiled brats when they don't get exactly what they want!

    January 21, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • Homer10

      Ask Jim Jones, or David Koresh. I hear Jimbo has a new KoolAid based weight loss system.

      January 21, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
  16. A new dawn

    Religion is officially dead tonight.


    January 21, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • Homer10

      No, but God is really embarrassed right now. ;-O

      January 21, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
  17. Homer10

    But his biggest test will be if he can appeal to regular hard working Americans, Mexicans, Blacks, small business owners, smart people, Asians, Antiarcticans, Greenlandians, Europeans, mentally normal people, bankers, Wall St traders.... and .... and finally me.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • COlady

      The answer to that would be... NO.

      January 21, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  18. allanhowls

    Just so everyone's got their scorecards right:
    Southern evangelicals = support for serial infidelity and open marriage.
    California liberals = want nothing more than monogamy and marriage.

    Who's for traditional values, again?

    January 21, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • Homer10

      OK, now I'm really confused.

      January 21, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
  19. Jackie

    The Christian Evangelicals decided cheating on your wife, open marriage and mistresses are approved in Religion. 85 ethic violations filed by Speaker Gingrich is approved and lying is ok. All this in a President is better then a black President. Evangelical men can now cheat on their wives as women voted for Newt. The US has now dropped to a low point with Newt. Newt does know what it's like to be on welfare/food stamps as his teenage Mom had to get Federal help when his Dad left her after he was born. Newt was 3 years old when his Mom married an older Military man who adopted him.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
  20. Critical Thinker

    The Merriam Webster Dictionary's primary definition of "hypocrite" is a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion. This term fits the definition of S.C. Evangelicals perfectly. Therefore, it now makes perfect sense that they would favor Newt who is the "Hypocrite-in-Chief."

    January 21, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • Sorting some things out

      Newt for Hypocrite in Chief: HICk Hahahahahahahahahahaha HIC (k), hahaha, that's S Carolina.

      January 22, 2012 at 8:33 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.